Posted by: Catherine Weston | July 11, 2013

SW19 and being British

The other day Christoph told me he thought Richard and I were the most British people he knew.  I think he meant this as a compliment, but I must have looked a little concerned because he quickly added ‘with an international outlook’.  He then further conceded that he didn’t actually know many British people very well – the University bubble he lives in most of the time is overwhelmingly international.

What had he seen in us that prompted this observation?  He’s been to our home on many occasions. Could it have been the minor outbreak of Murray fever he had earlier witnessed at a recent church meeting, which happened to coincide with a nail biting quarterfinal tennis match? Might my joking with him after church on Sunday have influenced him? When he looked a little vague after the mention of tennis, I urged him “Come on, Christoph, it’s the Wimbledon men’s singles final with Andy Murray poised to take the crown for Britain after a wait of 77 years!” I was, of course, anxious to introduce him to an aspect of British culture that may as yet have escaped him after only 4 years in our country.

I’ve never been to the All England Club in Wimbledon, London SW19, to see the tennis live, but every year that I can remember the Lawn Tennis Championships – brought to my TV screen by the reliable and familiar BBC – have been the marker post for my summer as sure as putting up the Christmas tree signals the start of the winter holidays.

It may be one of the world’s top international sporting events, but Wimbledon is also a very British phenomenon – the green lawns, the dress code, the strawberries and cream, the politeness, the Royal Box and millions of Britons who don’t follow tennis at any other time of year willing on the latest British hopeful to make it past the first round.

So Christoph had put his finger on how much our formative years affect our interests and passions and mark out adult responses for the rest of our lives.  No matter how many nationalities I welcome into my home, no matter how many countries I visit, no matter how much I have learned and adapted to fit and flex and accept and embrace what is different, I will always be British during Wimbledon fortnight.

PS congratulations to Andy Murray; you’ve made the country proud.

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